The Secret Garden – The Barn Theatre Cirencester REVIEW

The Barn Theatre is the newest edition to the Cotswold town of Cirencester. Crammed with shops, it has been crying out for a theatre for sometime. Now with the £4.5 million private investment and a whole lot of blood, sweat and tears from a tight knit group of theatre enthusiasts, it has finally happened.

A packed out press night in the intimate 200 seater theatre, draped with ropes and vines to disguise the lighting rigs. Local celebrities, BBC, The Stage and bloggers from far and wide have travelled for this inaugural production at the new modern theatre.

Most of us know and love The Secret Garden as the classic childhood book or even as the early nineties film. So the nostalgic hit is practically guaranteed, but mixed with a refreshing folk twist is warmly welcomed.

Dickon's band, playing 'Winter's On The Wing'. From top - Alex James Ellison (Dickon), Celeste De Veazey (primary role Colin Craven), ensemble members Jamie Ross, Steffan Rizzi, Celia Cr

The music was the stand out element in this play as it was almost a live concert in itself. Lucy Simon’s award winning score is brought to live with a whole host of talented actor-musicians. The modern folk revival of the music went hand in hand with the magical fairytale garden aesthetic of the set and scenery. The rich soulful sounds filled the semicircular room, getting the audience up, dancing and clapping by the final bows.

Daniella Piper brought a childlike energy and vital stubborn attitude to the role of Mary Lennox. She was well supported by a strong cast, particularly David Hayne as Archibald Craven, her broken shell of an uncle and Dickon as the charismatic, rock-star heart-throb. Others proved there is no such thing as small parts just small actors. Mary’s servant, Jenny O’Leary, and her gardener Steffan Rizzi (who was making his stage debut) were both fantastic and engaging in their mischievous worker roles. Each and every member of the cast were multitalented with skill for music as well as acting and gorgeous singing voices to match.

Daniella Piper (Mary Lennox) and Celeste De Veazey (Colin Craven)

Puppets and shadow storytelling played a heavily utilised role within the show. Ghostly puppets were used to represent those who have passed and those still with us. This did confuse things as is blurred the symbolism of the puppetry. Shadow cutouts were used to illustrate the narrative of particular songs and flashbacks. Both were aesthetically pleasing but I don’t think they worked to the best of their ability.

The Barn Theatre has totally reimagined production that brings a children’s story book into the 21st century and into the hearts of all who see it. The team have strived hard and waited long for this moment can hold their head up high. I am sure this is just the first of many innovative and groundbreaking productions to come.

 

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